How to Heal From a Narcissistic Relationship

How to Heal From a Narcissistic Relationship

How To Recover From Narcissistic Abuse

Leaving any type of toxic relationship is painful. You may have days where you miss the other person, doubt yourself, or feel ashamed about what happened. However, ending a narcissistic relationship is particularly difficult because of how much control your abuser tries to have. And once you do leave, healing may seem like a distant possibility. However, with a holistic trauma treatment program, you can learn to free yourself from the hold of narcissistic abuse and connect with yourself again. 

What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is any type of abuse by a person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), or someone who has narcissistic behaviors. It’s most commonly emotional and mental abuse, however, it can also be physical, sexual, or financial. 

The narcissistic abuse cycle is about control. Narcissists want to have all of the power in the relationship and use manipulation and deception to achieve that. Their needs are the most important, and your needs are a threat to them. They might need constant praise, or for you to shrink yourself to make them feel bigger. And because narcissists rarely feel regret for hurting others, many say cruel things and specifically target your deepest insecurities. 

Some additional signs of narcissistic abuse are:

  • Gaslighting, is when the abuser makes you question your sanity
  • Isolating you from other loved ones
  • Silent treatment
  • Name-calling
  • Intense swings between affection and cruelty
  • Stonewalling, or refusing to communicate
  • Love bombing, in which they use excessive affection to overwhelm you

Because narcissists excel at manipulation, you may not even realize the full scope of their abusive behaviors. And narcissists often portray themselves as the victim, while presenting you as unstable and emotionally volatile. That’s why it’s so important to learn both how to identify narcissistic abuse signs and the long-lasting effects it has on your life.   

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Narcissistic Abuse?

Having a relationship of any nature with a narcissist is unsettling. You never know where you stand with them or what they might do to you. And while leaving the relationship is a crucial step towards healing, there are many long-term effects to navigate in recovering from narcissistic abuse.

Lower Self-Esteem

Surviving narcissistic abuse can lower your self-esteem. Narcissists use your insecurities against you, saying incredibly cruel things that they know will hurt you. Hearing these words, especially from someone you’re emotionally attached to, can make them feel real. You might start to believe them as they plant seeds of self-hate. However, they aren’t true. They’re just an attempt to take away your power. And you deserve to feel good about yourself

Lack of Social Support

Narcissistic abuse also affects how you connect with other people. During the relationship, your abuser may have tried to isolate you, so you might not have a robust support network when you leave. And when you try to form new ones, it’s hard to trust other people again. Your abuser held your vulnerability against you, so opening up to another person might feel dangerous. But it’s important to be able to engage in healthy relationships. 

Coping Strategies That Hurt

Narcissistic relationships make it hard to find solid footing. This instability makes life’s stresses suddenly seem like too much to handle. And when life seems out of control, you might turn to unhealthy coping strategies to manage your stress. 

You might turn to high-risk behaviors like drinking while driving, or self-medicating with prescription pills to feel like you’re in control again. Or, you might use marijuana to reduce your residual anxiety from living in an abusive relationship. Because surviving abuse increases your risk of addiction, it’s important to reflect on why you’re drinking or taking drugs and what effects it’s having on your life. 

Simple and Complex PTSD

Narcissistic abuse is traumatic, so many people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in response. With PTSD, you experience symptoms that interfere with your life like flashbacks, nightmares, or increased anxiety for over a month. 

Some people in prolonged traumatic situations can also develop complex PTSD (c-PTSD). C-PTSD is characterized by these three symptoms:

  • Struggles with managing emotions
  • Negative self-view
  • Trouble forming and maintaining healthy relationships

C-PTSD is typically a response to ongoing abuse, like living with a narcissist for a long time. But whether you have diagnosed conditions like c-PTSD, or if you’re living with the other effects of narcissistic abuse, there are steps you can take to begin healing. 

Leave the Narcissistic Relationship

Once you recognize narcissistic abuse in a relationship, the next step is leaving. But many narcissists make it very hard to leave them. After all, they want total control of you, so any threat to that is alarming to them. This can be a dangerous situation, so it’s important to have a safe place to go. If you don’t, some local organizations that provide support for survivors of abuse may be able to help you. 

Once you’ve found a safe living situation, consider the following tips to give yourself time and space to heal.  

Set (and Keep) Boundaries

The first priority as you leave a narcissistic relationship is creating an environment where you are able to focus on healing. To do that, it’s important to set clear boundaries and be consistent in enforcing them. You don’t need to explain why you’re setting them or negotiate what they are. They’re your boundaries, not theirs. 

Narcissists are not usually receptive to other people’s boundaries, so this might be a more difficult task. However, boundaries are for your well-being, so even if they don’t like them, you should follow your own. For example, you might set a boundary about communicating only through text messages and not phone calls. If they call you, they’re crossing your boundary. But it’s up to you to not answer. 

Go No-Contact

You get to decide what you’re comfortable with when setting boundaries. However, one of the most potentially helpful ones is a no-contact rule. This means you will not speak in any way: in person, over the phone, or through any technology. You can block their number and all social media platforms. It may feel drastic at first, but it will give you time to heal without them trying to convince you of a different narrative. 

It’s common for narcissists to try to regain control after a separation. They might try to draw you back with false promises and apologies. That’s why removing all opportunities for communication is so important. You won’t have to tell yourself that you’re doing the right thing every time they try to persuade you to reconnect with them. 

However, some people cannot go no-contact because of legal, financial, or familial ties. For example, if you share a house, are legally married or have children together, you will have to continue to communicate with them to arrange the handling of those situations. If you have a lawyer, direct all communication through them to avoid directly having to speak with them.  

Take Care of Yourself While Moving on From Narcissistic Abuse

Once you’ve removed the narcissistic abuse from your life, it’s time to focus on yourself. This is a vulnerable time. And it’s common to feel sad, insecure or anxious. It’s important to practice self-care and self-compassion while healing from narcissistic abuse so you can connect with yourself in a more positive way. Also during this time, you can find support from other loved ones.

Practice Self-Care

When you have a relationship with a narcissist, you spend all of your time and energy on meeting their needs. So now that you’re free of that control, you get to prioritize what you need to feel better. It’s good to address all of the aspects of well-being. 

You can improve your physical health by getting enough sleep, eating balanced meals, and being physically active throughout the day. Meanwhile, meditating, avoiding unnecessary stress, and doing things you enjoy helps you feel better mentally. And reconnecting with loved ones, spiritual practices, and old hobbies makes your spirit stronger. 

Be Patient With Yourself

You’ve gone through a lot, so be kind to yourself as you navigate recovery. That might look like giving yourself the grace to grieve the relationship, reminding yourself how far you’ve come or even rewarding yourself at certain milestones. 

Especially after narcissistic abuse, it’s common for people to blame themselves because of how their abuser purposely tried to make them feel worse about themselves. But the abuse is not your fault. And their words are not reality. You are worthy of healing and self-love. 

Leaning on Loved Ones

Even though your narcissistic relationship may have taught you that your needs aren’t important to loved ones, that’s not the truth. The people who love you care about how you’re feeling and want to help you heal. You deserve to have other people take care of you as you build yourself back up. 

It’s also common to feel isolated after leaving an abusive relationship because many abusers separate you from other people for more control. If you’re feeling disconnected from the world, reach out to old friends to reconnect and ask for help. There are also local support groups for other people who have survived narcissistic abuse. They’ll understand what you’re healing from and can be a great avenue for support and comfort. 

Seek Professional Help For Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

Because of how insidious narcissistic abuse is, many times people need professional treatment to fully heal and move on from it. For some people, therapy once a week is sufficient. However, a residential trauma treatment program provides a more robust structure to support you in healing. Plus, if you’re also dealing with unhealthy coping behaviors like addiction, finding a trauma-informed treatment center will help you recover from everything. 

In order to resolve your trauma, you’ll move through a four-part process to:

  • Shed old beliefs that are holding you back
  • Identify unresolved parts of your past and change the way you think about them
  • Envision a new life unburdened by your trauma, where you live your true purpose
  • Implement these changes and start living your vision

We don’t just try to manage your symptoms. Instead, we’re here to empower you to free yourself from your past. To do this, we use our holistic approach to address all aspects of your well-being. Some of the therapy methods we use are:

  • Somatic experiencing therapy, helps you release your trauma physically
  • Energy medicine, like acupuncture or reiki, to unlock your energy flow
  • Individual and group psychotherapy, where you’ll learn new coping strategies
  • Mindfulness meditation, which allows you to focus on the present

You’ll work with our team to find the therapies that help you in your narcissist abuse recovery journey and integrate them into your daily schedule. And you’ll do all of this in the comfort and safety of our tranquil Sedona campus. Here, clients become family, ready to support each other in their unique healing journey. As one past client explained: 

“I was cared for, supported, and understood. I am leaving feeling like I have found myself.” 

Contact us today to find out how you can reconnect with yourself and your purpose, free from the trauma and effects of narcissistic abuse. 

Kelley Alexander JD. photo

Kelley Alexander JD.  is the co-director of The Sanctuary at Sedona and has worked over the last decade to develop its innovative Integrative Addiction Recovery Program that has helped hundreds of clients to be recovered from addiction and co-occurring disorders. Through her pioneering work, Kelley and her team at The Sanctuary also work with clients to overcome issues related to codependency, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. A JD and former practicing attorney, Kelley holds a BA in World Religions and has done graduate work in psychology. She is an ordained minister, certified shamanic breathwork facilitator, and a graduate of the Four Winds Healing The Light Body School, the premier energy medicine program founded by Alberto Villoldo. Kelley has also been a student of Dr. Joe Dispenza since 2009. She is a member of the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology and the Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies. She is a frequent lecturer at seminars and conferences throughout the United States.
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